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Contemplating Death

By Michael A. Singer

It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second. While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.

The question is, are you going to wait until that last moment to let death be your teacher? The mere possibility of death has the power to teach us at any moment. A wise person realizes that at any moment they may breathe out, and the breath may not come back in. It could happen any time, in any place, and your last breath is gone. You have to learn from this. A wise being completely and totally embraces the reality, the inevitability, and the unpredictability of death.

Any time you're having trouble with something, think of death. Let's say you're the jealous type, and you can't stand anyone being close to your mate. Think about what will happen when you're no longer here. Is it really all that romantic that your loved one should live alone with no one to care for them? If you can get past your personal issues, you'll find that you want the person you love to be happy and to have a full and beautiful life. Since that is what you want for them, why are you bothering them now just for talking to someone?

It shouldn't take death to challenge you to live at your highest level. Why wait until everything is taken from you before you learn to dig down deep inside yourself to reach your highest potential? A wise person affirms, "If with one breath all of this can change, then I want to live at the highest level while I'm alive. I'm going to stop bothering the people I love. I'm going to live life from the deepest part of my being."

This is the consciousness necessary for deep and meaningful relationships. Look how callous we get with our loved ones. We take it for granted that they're there and that they'll continue to be there for us. What if they died? What if you died? What if you knew that this evening would be the last time you'd get to see them? Imagine that an angel comes down and tells you, "Straighten up your affairs. You will not awake from your sleep tonight. You're coming to me." Then you'd know that every person you see that day, you'd be seeing for the last time. How would you feel? How would you interact with them? Would you even bother with the little grudges and complaints you've been carrying around? How much love could you give the ones you love, knowing it would be the last time you'd get to be with them? Think about what it would be like if you lived like that every moment with everyone. Your life would be really different. You should contemplate this. Death is not a morbid thought. Death is the greatest teacher in all of life.

Take a moment to look at the things you think you need. Look at how much time and energy you put into various activities. Imagine if you knew you were going to die within a week or a month. How would that change things? How would your priorities change? How would your thoughts change? Think honestly about what you would do with your last week. What a wonderful thought to contemplate. Then ponder this question: If that's really what you would do with your last week, what are you doing with the rest of your time? Wasting it? Throwing it away? Treating it like it's not something precious? What are you doing with life? That is what death asks you.

Let's say you're living life without the thought of death, and the Angel of Death comes to you and says, "Come, it's time to go." You say, "But no. You're supposed to give me a warning so I can decide what I want to do with my last week. I'm supposed to get one more week." Do you know what Death will say to you? He'll say, "My God! I gave you fifty-two weeks this past year alone. And look at all the other weeks I've given you. Why would you need one more? What did you do with all those?" If asked that, what are you going to say? How will you answer? "I wasn't paying attention . . . I didn't think it mattered." That's a pretty amazing thing to say about your life.

Death is a great teacher. But who lives with that level of awareness? It doesn't matter what age you are; at any time you could take a breath and there may never be another. It happens all the time -- to babies, to teenagers, to people in mid-life -- not just to the aged. One breath and they're gone. No one knows when their time will be. That's not how it works.

So why not be bold enough to regularly reflect on how you would live that last week? If you were to ask this question of people who are truly awakened, they wouldn't have any problem answering you. Not a thing would change inside of them. Not a thought would cross their minds. If death were to come in an hour, if death were to come in a week, or if death were to come in a year, they would live exactly the same way as they're living now. There is not a single thing they carry inside of their hearts that they would rather be doing. In other words, they are living their lives fully and are not making compromises or playing games with themselves.

You have to be willing to look at what it would be like if death was staring you in the face. Then you have to come to peace within yourself so that it doesn't make any difference whether it is or not. There is a story of a great yogi who said that every moment of his life he felt as though a sword were suspended above his head by a spiderweb. He lived his life with the awareness that he was that close to death. You are that close to death. Every time you get in the car, every time you walk across the street, and every time you eat something, it could be the last thing you do. Do you realize that what you're doing at any moment is something that someone was doing when they died? "He died eating dinner . . . He died in a car accident, two miles from his home . . . She died in a plane wreck on a trip to New York . . . He went to bed and never woke up . . ." At some point, this is how it happened to somebody. No matter what you're doing, you can be sure somebody died that way.

You must not be afraid to discuss death. Don't get upright about it. Instead, let this knowledge help you to live every moment of your life fully, because every moment matters. Thar's what happens when somebody knows they only have a week left. You can be certain that they would tell you that the most important week they ever had was that last week. Everything is a million times more meaningful in that final week. What if you were to live every week that way?

Copyright © 2007 Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. From the book Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer http://www.newharbinger.com/productdetails.cfm?SKU=5372

Michael A. Singer received a master's degree in the economics from the University of Florida in 1971. During his doctoral work, he had a deep inner awakening and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation. In 1975, he founded Temple of the Universe, a now long-established yoga and meditation center where people of any religion or set of beliefs can come together to experience inner peace. Through the years, Singer has made major contributions in the areas of business, the arts, education, healthcare, and environmental protection. He has previously authored two books in the integration of Eastern and Western philosophy: The Search for Truth and Three Essays on Universal Law: Karma, Will and Love. visit www.untetheredsoul.com for more information

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